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Winter weather causes travel chaos in Europe

By Phil Han, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Flight cancellations across Europe strand thousands of passengers.
  • Thousands of motorists in south-east England spend overnight in emergency shelters
  • Eurostar resumes partial service between France and the UK
  • Easyjet cancels more than 150 flights

London, England (CNN) -- Severe winter weather continued its stranglehold on Europe as travelers battled heavy snow, airlines canceled flights and motorists were left stranded.

Budget airline Easyjet said it had canceled more than 150 flights across the continent Tuesday due to harsh weather conditions.

Thousands of travelers were left stranded in airports around Europe as the airline dealt with severe delays in London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Milan.

Easyjet said disruptions were caused by "significant snowfalls" made worse by airport closures.

Video: Frustrated Eurostar customers
Video: Hope for Eurostar passengers
Video: Rail travel canceled
Video: Travel nightmare in Channel Tunnel
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"The disruption has been exacerbated by the closure of many airports which has had a knock on affect to our services," the airline said.

British Airways also canceled a small number of short-haul flights and reported delays across the network.

Frigid temperatures and dangerous driving conditions in the south-east of England also forced thousands of motorists to spend the night in emergency centers because they could not get home.

Five emergency centers were set up in Basingstoke in Hampshire county to deal with 3,000 stranded motorists.

Tell us about wintry weather near you

The Automobile Association of the UK said it was their busiest day in 10 years.

"Yesterday in terms of breakdowns we attended nearly 22,000 of them which is near double," Gavin Hill-Smith told CNN.

"Overnight it was our busiest night in 25 years."

There was some better news for passengers hoping to travel on Eurostar after the first train left Paris early Tuesday since services were suspended over the weekend following a series of breakdowns in the Channel Tunnel on Friday evening.

The cross-channel operator, which runs trains between London, Paris and Brussels, expected to run a two-thirds normal service and to have 26,000 seats available for passengers who had tickets for travel on Saturday and Sunday.

"Things are moving well and we've had three trains out of Paris and four out of London and we're reporting no problems," a Eurostar spokesman said.

"We're running a flexible schedule to try and get people home for the holidays as soon as possible."

Eurostar also announced the formation of an independent review of the weekend's disruptions.

The review will be headed by Christopher Garnett, former chief executive of GNER and formerly commercial director of Eurotunnel.

Officials hope to have the report out by the end of January and will focus on the causes of the disruption, contingency plans, arrangements with Eurotunnel as well as how passengers were treated.

People who were affected are being asked to send their accounts to independent.review@eurostar.com.

Roughly 75,000 Eurostar passengers were left stranded on either side of the English Channel on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

Eurostar management blamed the disruptions on severe winter weather which caused condensation to form on the trains, causing electrical failures.

The company then worked for three days to "enhance snow shields and snow screens" in the power cars of the trains.